One of Easy Food’s food stylists, Shannon Peare, explains the benefits of cooking from a young age.
Nothing says home quite like the smell of baking. I still remember waking my aunt up at 7 am to bake biscuits together, using the “fizz” as I couldn’t say sieve and making the letter ‘S’ with the biscuit dough. Getting to lick the spoon or the bowl was always the reward. This all comes down to baking at a young age. Baking is an excellent way to spend time with your kids, but there are actually so many other benefits. Here are some of my top reasons for the benefits of baking with kids (on top of producing some tasty treats!).
Benefits of baking with your kids
- It’s essential to read any recipe before baking. This is an excellent way to encourage children to read and helps them gain a better understanding of the recipe before baking.
- Reading through a recipe gives the budding bakers the opportunity to ask questions on new cooking terms such as whipping, creaming and sieving. This is a great way to build their vocabulary. During baking, ask about the new words and give them the opportunity to put them into practice.
Stirring in some safety
- Baking is a practical way of teaching about basic hygiene, such as washing their hands before and after handling food.
- Invest in an apron, as this not only helps new bakers feel like a real pro but also demonstrates the importance of wearing protective clothing.
- Set a good example in the kitchen and always work around the oven and hob carefully, stressing the importance of wearing oven gloves.
Mixing in maths
- Baking is a science; the delicious end results offer a tempting treat for practising key mathematical concepts during baking. Measuring ingredients, counting spoonfuls while mixing and dividing the batter are all important lessons gleaned from baking.
- Simple multiplication and division can also be applied when doubling or halving a recipe.
- Give young bakers the responsibility of weighing out the ingredients and teach them the different weights as they go; this is an excellent introduction to terms and concepts like weight, volume and capacity.
- Providing an outlet for kids’ creativity is an excellent way for them to express themselves, and decorating bakes is one of my favourite means of creative expression! Mix 125g of icing sugar with 1-2 tbsp of warm water to make a runny icing. Lay out a variety of different cutters, sprinkles and food colourings to give the kids the opportunity to let their imaginations run wild. Warning, this may get messy!
- If they like play dough, fondant is a great alternative as it will set hard and allow them to keep their creations.
Here are some basic tools to have on hand for novice bakers, plus a few handy kitchen staples that will do the trick…
Bowls are essential; weigh out any ingredients in small bowls you have in your cupboard, while large mixing bowls are available in most shops. If you do not have a designated mixing bowl, a basin, large salad bowl or even a large pot will work just as well. Weighing out all the ingredients first can help judge what size mixing bowl is required.
Weighing scales are essential when it comes to baking, and unfortunately, there isn’t an alternative. While measuring cups are common in America, European cups are sized differently, so would not produce the same results if used to replace a scale. Weighing scales are readily available and are a small price to pay to guarantee accuracy in your bakes.
Electric mixer…or muscle!
A hand mixer or a freestanding mixer is great for creaming butter and sugar, but a wooden spoon and some muscle power will work just as well!
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’
Baking biscuits, tarts or even covering a cake with fondant requires a rolling pin. Rolling pins are very inexpensive and can be found in most supermarkets. If in a pinch, a large empty glass bottle, a tall glass or glass jar will do the trick; this is probably safest for older children.
There are loads of cutters available, but why not let kids get innovative and create their own designs? Use different sized glasses to make circles, or cut out shapes from paper and trace around them on the dough to make customised shapes. To be safe, use a butter knife to trace around the outline of the stencil.
Trays and tins
A basic tray for cooking will work for any biscuits and many yeast breads. However, if you don’t have a tray, a flat oven-safe dish will work.
Parchment paper or greaseproof
Using parchment or greaseproof helps prevent bakes from sticking to tins. They are sold in all supermarkets and come in 8-10 metre rolls, so they should last a while! If you don’t have any, go with the traditional method of greasing your tins or trays with lots of butter! The aim of baking with kids is to have fun and allow them to use their imaginations. It’s a fun way to teach them some life skills, and will also mean you may just have something nice to have with your cup of tea!